November 20, 2017 Last Updated 8:33 am

Digital media world bigger than many seem to realize; Coalition talks collapse in Germany

Morning Brief: Newspapers proved very poor at influencing the electorate last fall — but as the papers in Alabama are proving, we are not likely to see newspapers end the practice

This week features Thanksgiving Day on Thursday and so TNM will be shutting down for the holiday some time on Wednesday, and will only start up again on Tuesday, November 28. With any luck we can enjoy a peaceful, twitter-free holiday.

In the meantime, there is a lot of BS going around about the demise of digital media, much of it being promoted by normally sane professionals.

On Friday, Josh Marshall, publisher of Talking Points Memo, who occasionally talks about the business side of his website, postulated that there is a digital media crash going on, “only no one is willing to say it.”

His post comes after several digital media reported less than stellar results.

Much of what he says I would agree with, especially that digital advertising is dominated by only a couple of companies, and that there is a structural imbalance caused by the ease of digital publishing, too many media brands chasing too few available dollars.

But is usually the case when journalists are discussing the business side of digital publishing, he sees the world from his own perspective and misses much. What he gets right is derived from the fact that Marshall is also a publisher, but what he misses is caused by having only worked on one side of the business.

What Marshall doesn’t seem to see is all the businesses created to tap into digital ad dollars, businesses that are not so concerned so much with editorial content, but with driving results for their advertisers. There are companies out there right now selling millions of dollars of advertising for CPG brands that need to drive sales, and see that spending all their marketing money at Google or Facebook, as well as traditional media brands, is not doing the trick.

There is a bigger world of advertising than just those media properties journalists read. There are retail websites, and B2B, and service sites that have audiences worth reaching. And as media brands lure their readers with headlines, others lure them with products, services and more.

Years ago many of these ad dollars were going to companies that displayed the ads on screens at grocery stores, or on floor or shelf ads. Consumers didn’t care much for these types of ads so much of this went away, though not all of it. The point is that brands need to drive sales, and it doesn’t make much sense for digital publishers to only look at Google and Facebook and say they can’t compete, when others are managing just fine. You have to create the products that will attract this advertising, just as print publishers created classifieds and inserts. The ad dollars traditional publishers got decades ago was not made up of just ROP — in fact, only a minority of it was ROP (run-of-press). So many journalists seem to forget that.

Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall:

There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It

Yesterday I appeared on a panel about digital publishers who are ‘pivoting to video’. I’ve written about this before. But in case you’re new to it, there have been numerous cases over the last six months to a year in which digital publishers have announced either major job cuts or in some cases literally fired their entire editorial teams in order to ‘pivot to video.’ The phrase has almost become a punchline since, as I’ve argued, there is basically no publisher in existence involved in any sort of news or political news coverage who says to themselves, my readers are demanding more of their news on video as opposed to text. Not a single one. The move to video is driven entirely by advertiser demand.

Angela Merkel’s fortunes have dipped at a most inopportune time. With Russia and the United States governed by oligarchs, Europe is in dire need of a steady hand, someone who can be seen as an alternative to undemocratic government. But the recent German election has weakened Merkel and talks to form a four=party coalition today collapsed.

Deutsche Welle:

Preliminary coalition talks collapse after FDP walks out

Germany was thrust into uncertainty early Monday morning after a month of four-party exploratory talks about forming a so-called Jamaica coalition collapsed. Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to navigate Europe’s largest economy through a difficult period ahead after the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) pulled out of make or break negotiations with her Christian Democrats (CDU), Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Greens.

Merkel said she regretted the breakdown of talks, noting that she and her conservative bloc believed they were “on a path where we could have reached an agreement.”

Bloomberg, Tony Czuczka and Birgit Jennen:

Europe Faces a Hamstrung Germany After Merkel’s Coalition Bid Fails

The breakdown in coalition talks late Sunday — amid disputes over migration and other policies between a grab-bag of disparate parties — raised the prospect of fresh elections, which probably would be held next spring. Relying on a minority administration with shifting alliances to pass legislation would run counter to Merkel’s promise to provide a stable government.

However she attempts to move forward, European decisions on everything from Brexit and Greece to Russian sanctions and French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for strengthening the euro region will now be hemmed in by Merkel’s weakened role as a caretaker chancellor.

There are a lot of politicians these days blasting the media, but not all the criticism is just politicians wishing the press wouldn’t talk about them. Sometimes the criticism is making a good point.


Gina Miller Demands Government Controls On Abusive Newspapers

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry says her office has received 13 death threats since the Telegraph named her as one of 15 “Brexit Mutineers.” The pro-EU Remain supporter said the police took the threats seriously and had passed two cases to prosecutors.

Ms Soubry has described the headline as a “blatant piece of bullying” but the paper’s editor defended what he called “the legitimate actions and language of a free press.” Gina Miller called on the government to hold newspapers that overstep the mark to account.

Nine Digital: Jo Abi:

Ita Buttrose on Australian magazines: ‘They assume the readers are morons’

“They let down the standard of women’s media,” she told Saturday Extra. “They assume the readers are morons and then blame everyone else for falling circulation.”

Buttrose, who was the founding editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1971 and was then appointed editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly, says when she sees the publications featuring conflicting stories about celebrities and their love interests, she ‘just laughs’.

Last September and October, newspaper after newspaper ran editorials either endorsing Hillary Clinton straight out, or at least editorializing that Donald Trump was unfit to be president. It didn’t matter, people voted for Trump anyways.

Let’s be clear about this: newspaper editorial influence is dead; but that doesn’t mean those newspapers were not right. Trump has, in fact, proved to be unfit for president, and a threat to freedom of the press.

Still, the first part of that conclusion continues to be tested. The latest test is happening in Alabama, where the state’s largest newspaper group, Alabama Media Group, owned by Advance Publications, has come out against Roy Moore, and has endorsed his Democratic opponent Doug Jones.

We’ll see if it means anything. (Don’t bet on it.), Editorial:

Alabama voters must reject Roy Moore; we endorse Doug Jones for U.S. Senate

This election is a turning point for women in Alabama. A chance to make their voices heard in a state that has silenced them for too long. The accusations against Roy Moore have been horrifying, but not shocking…

…As a news organization, we have independently investigated stories of several Alabama woman who have spoken to us and the Washington Post about the abuse they say they suffered at the hands of Roy Moore decades ago.

The seriousness of these incidents, including one involving a 14-year-old child, cannot be overstated. Nor can the growing number of accusations — from the women who were at the receiving end of unwanted adult male overtures as teens, to those who say they were physically assaulted — be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or whether proof has been recorded on a stone tablet. In the American system, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. It is our job as voters to look closely at the candidates and make up our own minds.

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